When it feels as though the sky is falling, and I know my two hands are not enough to catch, lift, hold the whole thing up, I am tempted to throw my hands up in the air—so sometimes I read this poem and ask myself, well, what little bird can I lift today?
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
And one day, a few years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed by all I wanted to do, wished I could do, thought I ought to be doing for a group of fourth grade students I was working with, I asked them to read Dickinson’s poem and write some of their own. So now, somedays, I read their poems too.
Mr. Jamal Who Saves The World in Peace
If I can stop people breaking their love apart,
Then I will feel so happy I will cry with joy.
If I can make the people stop fighting and make the world a better pace,
Then I will feel so big and nice.
If I can take care of people and animals from getting hurt who are sick,
Or if I can grow up to take care of anything and make it a better place in the world,
Then my life will be so, so happy in the world
I Shall Live In Happiness
If I can stop one crazy rhino,
Or save one horse from dying,
I will like it and be grateful.
If I can save my dad from falling,
Take away fighting,
Cook a meal of rice and chicken for my family,
Or take care of my family and my dog,
Or if I can get a job
And pay the bills,
I shall live in happiness.
Happiness in The World
If I can help people feel confident about singing,
If you’d like to find tangible civil, environmental, human rights actions to take there are some organized folks who are making it easier to find the robin’s nest. One to check out is Daily Action which texts you one local action you can do each day. https://dailyaction.org/
I’ve added an “Action” category to my weekly Get-To-Do list, to list concrete tasks connected to abstract hopes like peace, justice, rights, climate, in a place that’s easy to reach—and I’m going to try to remember that each one is a bird, that can fly up to join a flock. And I’m going to read more poems...so send me some of yours.